Isn’t it brilliant to be writing about wins in recent weeks? Finally it feels like we’re seeing a glimpse of the future, and it’s a youthful one!
Let’s talk next generation. On Saturday, our young players demonstrated equal parts talent and composure. Though both are still eligible for Flegg, Mahoney and Salmon never looked overawed, with Mahoney’s sharp service pressing his claims for the starting rake’s role in 2019. For Salmon, it was more of an orientation to first grade that he can build upon in coming weeks.
Limiting our expectations of the young blokes will be a challenge. The poor season and injuries have provided the opportunity for their blooding – but let’s keep our opinions limited to that – it’s a blooding with next season in mind. Nonetheless, for such players to take a role in the victory over the Titans is a great way to start.
Moving away from the “elvers”, we can’t ignore the efforts of some of the more established players. The Eels middle continued their improved recent form. That much maligned pack stood up and, though down on numbers, was certainly not down on effort, skill, aggression and strength. Both Tim Mannah and Nathan Brown show every week how invaluable they are for our team and they certainly did not disappoint last Saturday. And what about Peni Terepo! He’s hitting some rare form off the bench and creating an impact every time he’s introduced.
But let’s not limit the praise to the youth or the hard heads in the middle. The backs clicked into gear and provided a couple of highlight tries. Norman and Moses were more decisive and precise with their kicks and Hayne did everything to continue to dispel any doubts I still have. In truth, I have no doubts anymore and will actually be disappointed if Hayne does not play with the Eels next year. Jennings seems back to his defensive best and his brother George certainly carries the ball powerfully.
I really enjoyed watching the attacking football demonstrated in the match, with speed and focus being key elements. It was refreshing to have Moses and Gutherson attack the line with a “run first and pass second” philosophy. That mindset delivered a stunning 254 running metres for Gutho.
But as much as I loved some of the play that I saw in attack, I was really proud of the reaction our players displayed when Tim Mannah was sin binned. As ridiculous as the sin bin was, it was inspiring to see our players lift in effort and defend our line with determination.
From the stands, that team effort while down to 12 was reminiscent of 2016. This season from hell will remain just that, and we cannot gloss over what needs to be done to get the club back on track, but one thing is evident from this game – our players and coaches care about their performances and have found some real backbone.
How is this manifesting? The players’ recent performances are more reminiscent of the previous two seasons. The coaches are trying new things, making changes both on and off the field to move forward, keeping training fresh via additional staff – basically doing what they can to reignite this team and club. They obviously don’t want 2019 to be like 2018 and are trying to do what they can in the remaining games to gain something positive from this season.
A question about the size of the crowd was raised at the post match press conference. Arthur essentially responded with what most of us know – it’s to be expected when your team sits at the bottom of the table.
However, my hope is that we, the supporters, can rally behind the team.
Even though the team sits where they do, such a small crowd on Saturday was difficult to accept. We had one young player making his debut and one running out in the starting team for the first time. I cannot help but be disappointed that these players, people who could very well help us rebound next year, are playing in a front of a lifeless crowd.
I dearly hope we can unite with the players and coaches and decide to be part of the solution, and help to fix things through our support and not simply lament and criticise the failure.
It’s indisputable that much of this season has been difficult at best, and almost unwatchable at its worst, but from the stands I am now seeing much more effort and skill on match days. Just as the club doesn’t want 2019 to be a repeat of 2018, I too want to avoid that outcome and the small part I can play is to get out to support and encourage the boys.
Finally, an important message as I return to that blue and gold youth.
I’m excited to be able to watch our young Jersey Flegg team play this coming weekend. They are a significant part of this glimpse into the future. I’ve heard so much about the talent in the team but the opportunity to see them in action has disappeared this year with the reduced profile of the 20s competition. A rare opportunity to catch them in action will be taken, so please make sure you’re there for the 5:15 kick off.
And my great hope for the young stars in the top grade such as Marata, Reed and Jaemon – wouldn’t it be fantastic for them to hear an authentic Parra chant at some point in the next two home games? For that to be the case, we supporters must get back on the ride. Though the team is just starting the uphill climb – that tough, steep climb back up the ladder – they will get there much quicker with everyone’s support.